Part of Foaad Khosmood’s Interview with Scott Ritter,
FKh: Let’s now turn to Iran and your new book Target Iran. Who is the MEK?
SR: MEK is the Mojahedin-e-Khalq . It’s an Iranian Marxist organization that came into being in the 1970’s. It was a force that was opposed to the rule of the Shah of Iran. It was primarily a military opposition group to the Shah and it carried out a number of attacks against the governmental institutions and the military and American military advisors in Iran.
When the Islamic revolution took place in 1979, the MEK initially allied with the Ayatollahs but soon fell out of favor with them. MEK went into exile and they took root first in Europe and later in Iraq where it became a very powerful military wing of the Iraqi Mukhaberat or the intelligence service. Today it’s funded by the CIA in their policy of using this organization to be a stick in the side of Iran. Even now, the MEK continues to be listed by the State department as an international terrorist organization.
FKh: OK, so this is a terrorist organization that is responsible for attacks against American civilians. There are many negative things against this group, especially in this political climate. Yet it has managed to have favorable public relations in Washington. Is this all because of CIA backing or are there other benefactors?
SR: Well, if you’re dealing with a population that is pre-programmed to accept at face value anything that is put forth by the mainstream media or other punditry which opposes the Islamic Republic, as being good, then all these negatives go away.
The MEK also has the support of the state of Israel. It has the support of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby here in the United States. It has the support of many members of congress, whether they have arrived at their position independently or as a result of intensive lobbying. The MEK does have a base of support among the anti-Tehran groups in Washington.
FKh: In your new book, Target Iran you say that Israeli intelligence was the true source of the new information on Iran’s hidden nuclear facilities. You also say that Michael Ledeen and some Washington neocons arranged for MEK to be the conduit of this information. Why was it important for another organization to be the deliverer of this news?
SR: The answer is twofold. One, Israel has a PR problem if it comes out as the lead element in tackling Iran’s nuclear program. Two, if your goal is regime change and one of the organizations that you’re backing is the MEK “ you would also like to. As you say, there are a number of negatives to this organization, so you would position the MEK as an organization that is capable of getting quality information on Iran. This was the same strategy that was used with the Iraqi National Congress and Ahmad Chalabi.
FKh: You also write that this information was known to George Tenet ahead of time. Does this mean Washington is once again engaged in manipulation of intelligence by withholding and strategically releasing information?
SR: I don’t think this was premeditated by Washington. I have written that the United States was almost 100% focused on the Iraqi problem and barely concerned about this particular issue. Tenet was aware of this information, as were many other people concerned about the Iranian nuclear program, but he did not treat this information as credible.
I don’t think this is part of a conspiracy trying to manipulate data. This was simply the United States putting this information on the back burner and not giving it the attention it needed which is why the Israelis needed to find more dramatic, publicly accessible means of giving this data to the mainstream press. This is one of the reasons they chose the MEK.
FKh: So what happened to these sites? Were there inspections of the specific sites that were revealed by the MEK?
SR: These sites were inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Some of the sites like Natanz have emerges as having been involved in a uranium enrichment program. None of the sites have been found to have been involved in a nuclear weapons program. In fact there has been no evidence found of a nuclear weapons program existing in Iran, just a nuclear enrichment program for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Some of the information the MEK later put out turned out to be false. Basically the release of this information – which was debunked – was an effort to take control the headlines and interpretation of what’s going on to take out voices other than those who detest Iran by providing information that is not accurate.
This happened a lot when I was a weapons inspector. We dealt with Israel. Israel provided outstanding information up front. But later on, as the investigation went on, the well dried up. No more information could be provided while the Israeli data turned out to be inaccurate.
Zmag.com – January 31, 2007